Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ghost Towns Pt 2

There are a number of ghost towns in the area around Ouray, where we were staying in Colorado, but several people had recommended Animas Forks as the one to see. The easiest way to get there was to drive south on the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton and then on to Animas Forks. Unfortunately much of the road beyond Silverton was marked as 4-wheel drive territory and our budget didn't stretch to the nearly $200 it would cost to rent a jeep for the day. I had thought about risking our rental car (a Nissan Altima) as far as I was comfortable to see how close I could get, but as I came down into Silverton it started raining, so I abandoned that idea. My thought was then to have a mosey around Silverton as it seemed to have some fun little shops but when I went to the bank I couldn't get my card to work. So I had to make do with the cash I had in my wallet, which was just enough to buy me a sandwich, fries and soda at the oddly named, and very pink, "Thee Pits Again". Apparently it had been featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" so there was a TV on with an endless loop of the feature episode (with the sound turned off) and a multitude of pictures and newspaper articles on the walls.

Thee Pitts Again... best barbeque around!

To be fair it was a very generous sandwich, good fries and free refills, but it left me with a handful of change and no inclination to dash through the rain to window shop when there was no possibility of buying anything. So I rather sulkily shook the mud of Silverton off my boots and headed home. Ironically, once I got up out of the valley the rain cleared and it was gorgeous again. I'd like to go back someday for a proper look around but at the time I was wondering if I had been cursed. The Animas River that runs by the back of the town is also known as "Rio de las Animas Perdidas", or the River of Lost Souls. It felt like that kind of afternoon.

Fortunately, I had made a few stops along the way down. The scenery on Million Dollar highway is breathtaking, and just off the road, about halfway along on the way to Silverton, is Ironton. Established in the early 1880s, it survived into the early 20th century but declined over the years and was finally completely abandoned in the 1960s.

It is settled into a hollow between the road and the Red Mountain Creek

and the woods are gradually taking over, growing up between, and occasionally through, the buildings.
Most of the buildings are more or less collapsed

but there are a few fairly intact.

These two were the best preserved. The windows on the ground floor of the first one were open so there was plenty of light but in the upper floor, and all the windows of the white house, had been boarded up. A few of the pictures I took in pitch black rooms with my flash and couldn't see what they actually looked like until I got back to the hotel and downloaded them onto my computer.

There was some fascinating detritus in these old houses.  Like old mattress springs -

I think this is an old Sterno can? (ETA - apparently it's an oil filter for a car)
Layers of old wallpaper - it was fun trying to guess which decade each was from.

The 50s?

The 60s? Could be the 30s.
Layers of linoleum as well.

You could see the woven cotton backing on the earliest layers.
The plaid was some kind of vinyl and was on top so I'm guessing this was the 60s contribution.

In the first room of the white house, the one with the door, there were some large remnants of a very pretty pink wallpaper, as well as some of the white ceiling paper.
This was one of the rooms that was pitch black so I had no idea what it looked like till I got back and could look at the photos.
There was a little bit of light coming into this room but I didn't realize it was yellow till I'd seen the photos. More of those wood slat ceilings.
This is the same cupboard, without and with flash. Looking at it now, it kind of looks like something in a horror film.
Love the chippy paint.

Despite my disappointments at Silverton I had a really good day.

Abandoned places are  compelling. I could hear traffic from the nearby road but couldn't see it through the trees and I enjoyed having it all to myself.



  1. My husband and I vacationed in Ouray about 5 years ago. I remember never feeling comfortable because I am extremely scared of heights. Driving the mountain roads was terrifying to me. However, the scenery was absolutely amazing, and it's something I'll never forget.

    1. David has a terrible time with heights as well. The group we were with did a 4-wheel drive trip over the pass between Ouray and Telluride and he had to spend most of the time with his eyes closed, gripping my hand very hard.

  2. The "sterno can" is an oil filter for a car.

    1. An oil filter? I'd never have guessed that :)


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